Posted by: ritagone | July 7, 2010

Obsessions

I’m not usually a big fan of reality shows on television, but last week I watched one that I found particularly gripping and poignant.  It was called “Obsession,” aptly enough, and it dealt with compulsions that real people find themselves struggling with.

On this particular episode, one lady was a constant exerciser.  She owned two treadmills and had them set up in two strategic locations in her home.  She was walking – rapidly – on them literally all the time she was awake.  She had not sat down to a meal with her family – a husband and three children – ever!  Her small children were neglected because she couldn’t take the time to go outside to play with them, leaving that chore to her husband instead, because she had to exercise.  She ate her one meal a day between 2 and 3 a.m., alone, quickly, secretly, with much guilt and fear.  She felt that if she didn’t exercise at this capacity and rate, she would gain weight and get fat.

The other half of the show was about a man who had overcome drug addiction only to find himself compulsively terrified that people would come into his home and contaminate everything and anything with their own addictions and germs.  He claimed that he wanted to maintain a sanitary condition to protect his wife and his daughter, but in reality it was to protect himself from what he perceived as contamination from the outside world.  As a result, he could not work, he spent hours washing his hands and cleaning counters and toilets and floors, showering himself, scrubbing anything and everything that he felt could be “dirty.”  He never left his home because, of course, the outside world was tainted beyond bearing.  Having guests into their home was an almost impossible task and brought him no joy, only fear and anxiety.  And when those guests left – even close friends or relatives – he found himself having to shower and scrub and clean everything all over again.  Needless to say, he couldn’t find time to do much of anything other than clean himself and his environment.  Like the constant exerciser lady, there was something in his life that had become such an obsession that there was no room for anything else, including family and love and peace of mind.

Wow.  I found my head shaking with wonderment and amazement, that someone could live this way.  Both of these “subjects” had reached the place where they were seeking help, realizing that they couldn’t go on like this and maintain the life they were living.  Their spouses just weren’t going to put up with it any longer.  Can you blame them?  Can you imagine being married to a woman whose only preoccupation is exercising, so that you are forced to work full time, then come home to take care of the children, the house, the bills, the relatives, and everything else in your life, because everything else in life is extraneous to her and so you have to be the one to deal with it all?  It stretches the bounds of human patience and kindness.  And can you imagine being married to a man whose daily routine consists of a dozen or more showers a day, and then scrubbing counters and floors and walls and toilets and tubs and anything else where germs and bacteria may hide, so that nothing else matters?  You’d sure begin to feel that you held no significance in the relationship, that if you left, if you weren’t there, it wouldn’t matter much to the person with the obsession.

So no wonder these people began to see that they needed help.  I wonder how many people in their situations never even get to that point?  How desperate and how sad.

So in came the therapists who specialize in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, patiently laying out their plans for baby steps for improvement.  And I must say that by the end of the show, both subjects were coping with life with mionimal treadmills and minimal showers in a much healthier way.  I found myself praying for these people and wondering how they were doing today, knowing that this show was filmed quite a while ago.  Had they relapsed?  Or were they still on the road to recovery and normalcy?  I sure hoped so.

But what really struck me was that these OCD behaviors were infused with fear.  That’s what they were really all about: the fear of being out of control, the fear of losing control, the fear of not knowing what would happen if things were different in your environment.  Fear.  We are so prone to fear and will do whatever it takes to avoid it, even exhibiting the most bizarre behavior.

Maybe that’s why we are told that “perfect love casts out fear,” because we are all such creatures who are filled with fear.  We need to know about God’s perfect love so that we can walk free from obsessive behaviors that can engulf us and enslave us.

As for me, I’m so glad that Jesus has removed the big fears from my soul.  By comparison, the little fears (“Do I look fat in this dress?”) are easy to live with.

Have a great rest of the week.  Warm regards,  Rita

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